Thursday, October 10, 2013

Speaking in Public isn't private - and the internet is a public space

With all the scandal around Edward Snowden I have to say I'm mostly in the camp of 'surely everyone knew that spying agencies spied on people?', but the most surprising is when it comes to the 'scandal' that they might be listening to our communications over the internet.

The internet?  The one created and originally funded by DARPA?  The open internet with the IP protocol that means packets are by default openly routed and unencrypted?

Or do you mean SMTP with its unencrypted openly routed emails?

Or HTTP with its unencrypted data?  Even HTTPS only encrypts the data, you can still openly find out what page someone was looking at in terms of the IP address just not the data being exchanged.

Seriously did anyone actually think that people are not watching this stuff?  When did this become a surprise?  I knew that 30 years ago people were spying on this.  Didn't we all have a .sigs back then that said 'Hello to my friends in Cheltenham and Langley'?

Agencies have spied on people, even allies in fact maybe ESPECIALLY allies for hundreds of years.  Its the whole point of funding spying agencies and the internet just makes that spying easier.  Its a public conversation that you are having on Twitter, Facebook or over email.  You might think its private but its really just shouting out of a window and public speech isn't something you should be surprised if its being tracked.

This isn't a question of 'only the innocent have nothing to fear' but its a question that actually by bringing this more into the open we risk it being used beyond its current scope of spies and into regular police forces and its that which would scare me more.  The whole risk is that spying becomes a mainstream police activity not something from specialist organisations whose primary focus is on genuine national threats, not someone forgetting to put the garbage bin out on a Tuesday night.

Spying is real, it has been for hundreds of years and its sadly got a place in a world of cyber and other terrorist threats.  That people have got upset about the tracking of information over public networks says much more about the lack of understanding of how the Internet works than of a big brother state that is completely new.

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